This past weekend the family and I drove to Western Massachusetts; the week before we drove to Maine for a weekend of hanging with the Bushes in Kennebunkport (okay, so maybe we didn’t actually hang with the Bushes); two weeks before that Jess & I drove to White Plains, NY and back in one day – now quick, if a vehicle is traveling at 65 miles per hour and is 20 miles from their exit, how long will it take for them to arrive at said exit? OR if they are traveling at 71 miles per hour and are 31 miles from their destination, approximately how long until they arrive?
What do traveling on the highway and a flashback to primary school math word problems have to do with running?
I have written extensively about the benefits of running – weight loss, lower blood pressure, healthier heart, increased energy, an awesome community, runner’s high, just to name a few. Well, it’s time to add one more entry. Quite honestly, I only realized this a couple of weeks ago, but I know I have been experiencing it for quite some time now. Over the last couple of years I discovered that long road trips had become easier. It wasn’t because the kids were getting older. It wasn’t because Jess would stay awake to keep me company (she doesn’t – she’s like a baby – you start driving and within short order she is sound asleep). It wasn’t because I finally found a good travel coffee mug (though I do find it indispensible!).
No, it wasn’t for any of the reasons above. You wanna know why long road trips, specifically the driving, became easier?
Because I run.
That’s right, running and marathon training have helped my endurance in that family duty that can make any man question his sanity – the family road trip.
How you may ask?
Well, you may recall that in almost every marathon I have run there has come a point when I started doing math in my head. It’s not random math mind you, but math with a purpose. During the last third of just about any race I will constantly be calculating and re-calculating how fast I need to go to achieve the overall time I am trying to hit – the end of my Boston Qualifying run at Smuttynose was spent rolling the numbers over and over again, making sure I crossed that finish line in 3:20 or better. Boston 2011 was spent watching my attempt at 3:10 and then 3:15 slip away like sand through an hour glass. Maybe I do it to distract me from the pain at the time, maybe I do it simply to stay engaged, but whatever the reason, my endurance is tied to doing mathematical mental gymnastics throughout a race.
So how does this tie into driving? Quite nicely actually.
By simply adding a factor of 10, I get almost a straight correlation between my running and my driving. If I am on a twisting back road where I know I will average about 30 – 40 miles per hour, I know that I will cover 10 miles in 15 – 20 minutes (a brisk walk). Likewise, if I’m on the highway, I know that 60 miles per hours yields a 10 minute/10 mile pace (a slow jog); 65 mph? 9:13; 70 mph? 8:34 (both fall into the long, slow distance category); 75 mph? 8:00; and if I’m lucky enough to be in a flow of traffic that is moving at 80 mph? That 10 mile pace drops all the way to 7:30 (marathon pace, baby!). All of the studying of the pace charts I did before every marathon has paid off in making the long drives of the family road just a little easier to deal with.
Anything shorter than 260 miles now seems easy. And once I get within 60 miles of our destination? Forget about it! It’s like running a 10K – done before you know it!
So the next time you go on a lengthy road trip, bring your water bottle, stash a couple of GU’s in your pocket and make sure you’re wearing the proper attire – oh, and don’t forget to stretch!
Oh, and the answers to the above word problems were 18:27 and 26:06.